Tim Hames: Don't believe a word you hear in Denver next week

Share
Related Topics

The city of Denver will have many delights for the Democratic Party delegates and others who assemble there this weekend. It is, for instance, a place where one can join the Mile High Club without ever leaving the ground as it is situated precisely 1,760 yards above sea level. Its early history is, however, somewhat tainted. In the late 19th century it was virtually controlled by one Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II, a notorious showman and con artist around whom the film The Sting was partly inspired, who earned his nickname via a trick in which he would sell off bars of basically worthless soap to crowds who bought them for a dollar under the misapprehension that there might be a $100 bill prize hidden within them.

The spirit of Soapy Smith will be alive and well at this convention. The next week will feature a mixture of illusion, insincerity and outright hypocrisy which defy even the normal standards of contemporary politics. And it will be played out before an audience of millions.

It will start with a speech that Hillary Clinton is obliged to deliver, endorsing Barack Obama. Her prime-time slot is allegedly a consolation prize for not being considered for the vice-presidential portfolio, although as consolations go it makes those citizens of Denver who ended up purchasing a two cent chunk of soap for a dollar look fortunate. The text can be predicted in advance ("it was a long, hard, fight but we remained close friends throughout, now I will campaign my heart out for him" etc), but it will be totally fictitious.

Mr Obama and the Clintons utterly loathe each other. She (and her husband) continue to believe that she would have been the stronger contender against John McCain (probably true), that she was denied the prize because they were out-hustled in organisational terms, not real votes cast (valid), and that the Illinois Senator is little more than a charming schmoozer (a plausible assertion, although how ex-President Clinton can offer it with apparent outrage is surreal).

The Clinton-Obama display of unity will make the Nazi-Soviet Pact look like an event rooted in profound principle. She is aching for him to lose so that she can inherit the earth at the second time of asking come 2012. Never mind Mr McCain, she would prefer that Monica Lewinsky rather than Mr Obama was elected to the Oval Office this November.

That facade does, though, have a decent chance of being trumped a mere 24 hours later. For Mr Obama is scheduled to be officially nominated by Caroline Kennedy, the last surviving descendent of the slain President and the woman who, on the basis of no obviously relevant qualification whatsoever, was notionally tasked with overseeing the selection procedure for the vice-presidential running mate. The choice of Ms Kennedy for this role is no accident. The Kennedy clan, determined to ward off the unwanted competing claim of the Clintons to be the first family of Democratic politics, backed Mr Obama early in the race and delivered vital liberal support to him. He in turn has been eager to wrap himself in the JFK mantle.

That was manifested most overtly in his address made in Berlin last month, but is actually a permanent fixture of his strategy. That they have nothing in common bar partisan allegiance and a capacity for oratory is immaterial. Even those who would prefer that he lose must ache for Mr McCain to adapt and borrow from Lloyd Bentsen's devastating critique of Dan Quayle 20 years ago and turn on his rival in one of the presidential debates to retort "I did not know Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was not a friend of mine, Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."

Then there will be the Obama acceptance speech itself. This is customarily delivered in the convention centre auditorium (not unreasonably), but on this occasion it will occur elsewhere in a stadium that is capable of seating about 70,000 souls. This could be regarded as just a shade egotistical. It is, nonetheless, completely rational because Mr Obama, who has been in the Senate for less than four years (and has spent much of that time striving for the White House rather than engaging in the tedium of legislation) has relied more on rhetoric for his meteoric rise than possibly any politician in any democracy at any point in history. He may, in fairness, be a fabulous administator. There happens to be no shred of evidence either way.

Yet regardless of any of this, what will happen in Denver will be compulsive viewing. Although this is a close contest and may remain so to the end, the election is one in which Obama remains the favourite. Added to which, Soapy Smith maintained his act profitably in Denver for 20 years. This Democratic nominee has but 10 weeks in which to keep up appearances.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice